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Wednesday WTF: Wafergate drags on

Graham F. Scott

[This is the first blog post in our “WTF/FTW” series. In the magazine we’ve been including tiny articles that come under the heading “WTF?” and “FTW!” for bad/crazy/weird news, and good news, respectively. We’ll now be doing these weekly, as well: Look for Wednesday WTF and Friday FTW. You can probably work out which days they appear.]

Did he or didn’t he? Apparently the question of whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper properly consumed a communion wafer at the funeral mass for former Governor General Roméo LeBlanc still rages in some quarters, though the rest of us had moved on. But then, yesterday, the Saint John Telegraph-Journal reportedly fired both its editor and publisher over the paper’s coverage of the fiasco, and ran a front-page apology to boot:

The story stated that a senior Roman Catholic priest in New Brunswick had demanded that the Prime Minister’s Office explain what happened to the communion wafer which was handed to Prime Minister Harper during the celebration of communion at the funeral mass. The story also said that during the communion celebration, the Prime Minister “slipped the thin wafer that Catholics call ‘the host’ into his jacket pocket”.

There was no credible support for these statements of fact at the time this article was published, nor is the Telegraph-Journal aware of any credible support for these statements now…. The Telegraph-Journal sincerely apologizes to the Prime Minister for the harm that this inaccurate story has caused.

Now, inaccuracies in reporting, especially when they tarnish someone’s reputation (as this teapot-tempest, uh, did? Sort of?), are serious matters, and all media outlets should treat them as such. But honestly? Making your two senior managers walk the plank over a one-day piece of puff news? It’s not as if the Telegraph-Journal acted alone to inflate this story to its final, idiotic proportions; every other paper in the country leaped on this silly-season scrap too, acting on the same flimsy third-hand accounts and one nut with a YouTube video that was ambiguous at best (and has since been deleted!).

The real shame is that the actual event here—the state funeral of a former representative of the Queen in Canada—has been swamped by this nonsense. Poor Roméo.

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